A WENSLEYDALE business group hopes to encourage post-16 students to pursue local business opportunities in a bid to increase the long-term retention rates of young people in the area.

The Lower Wensleydale Business Network and Wensleydale School and Sixth Form have launched a mentoring and internship scheme where members and local business owners are matched with students.

It follows a joint announcement from them last year about a new study option open to students starting this September.

A mentor will commit to their student for a two-year period, with regular meetings where they help them understand the skills that employers are looking for while giving them a first-hand insight into their chosen career.

This will be coupled with an internship which will provide each student with practical experience of working in a business environment and, most importantly, allow the internship provider to uniquely evaluate and support a prospective employee.

It is hoped the scheme will improve the long-term career prospects for young people in the area – the lack of which has resulted in fewer young families moving into the area combined with a rise in the number of local young people leaving to pursue opportunities elsewhere.

David Poole, one of the Lower Wensleydale Business Network management team, believes it is crucial that businesses do everything they can to help develop the next generation of business leaders.

He said: “Too often we see young people leave our community because of a perceived lack of opportunity. The Mentorship and Internship Scheme will open up opportunities by giving our young people the skills and experience that employers are desperately looking for when they are recruiting.”

Chairman of the Lower Wensleydale Business Network Richard Sanderson, added: “As a businessman I wish that there had been an option like this in my younger days, it has everything to set young people on the path to success.”

Charles Barnett, assistant head teacher, is spearheading the Business and Innovation Centre which, he said, will prepare students for the 21st century.

“They can use their skills for many of the established routes for 18 year olds – be it higher level apprenticeships, direct employment, university or using their business and innovation skills to start their own businesses,” he said.

Business owners and leaders who want to be a mentor should email info@lwbusinessnetwork.co.uk or call 07779 378641.